Chianti Rufinà DOCG or ‘Chianti from Rufinà’ is a red wine based on 70-100% Sangiovese from a small area in the Sieve River valley in the Province of Florence (Firenze) in Tuscany. Chianti Rufinà gained DOCG status in 2007, having been a DOC from 1967. Chianti Rufinà’s sweet dried grape wines are bottled under the Vin Santo del Chianti Rufinà DOC and Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina Occhio di Pernice DOC.
History: Chianti Rufinà is the most historic denomination in the wider Chianti DOCG. Rufinà’s borders were first defined in 1716 by the decree of Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici (see below). This deemed four areas as being of superior production. At that time the Rufinà area was named Pomino/Chianti Rufina after the Albizi family’s famous Pomino estate. Pomino is now a DOC in its own right. The Grand Duke’s decree also created what are now the Chianti Classico DOCG, the Carmignano DOCG, and the Valdarno di Sopra DOC.
Size: The Chianti Rufinà DOCG zone is the smallest in extent of the seven denominations within the wider Chianti DOCG. It occupies 12,483ha of land of which around 750ha of vineyards are registered to produce Chianti Rufinà DOCG with room for an additional 300ha. | Average annual production of about 27,000hl corresponds to 3,500,000 bottles. The Chianti Rufinà DOCG has just over 20 wine producers, the largest of which by far is Castello Nipozzano owned by Marchesi Frescobaldi. 2016 Federico Giuntini of Fattoria Selvapiana told me that Rufina’s 20 or so producers made around 4% of the total output for Chianti DOCG, and that despite its small size, it is the third most productive area in the Chianti DOCG after Chianti Classico DOCG and Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG.
Geography: Rufinà occupies the north eastern part of the much wider Chianti DOCG zone, and is 12 miles (20km) north-east of the Italian city of Florence (‘Firenze’) and thus north too of the Chianti Classico DOCG. The Rufina region stretches along the summit of Monte Senario from Dicomano in the north-east to Pontassieve in the southwest (D’Agata: 2019, p.284). Rùfina differs from the other Chianti DOCG and Chianti Classico DOCG regions by being deeper inland. This brings the its vineyards much closer to the Apennine mountain range, the chain of mountains that forms central Italy’s spine. Here it is the Tuscan-Romagnoli Apennines dividing Tuscany from Emilia Romagna, almost up to the Mugello valley.
The mountains and the presence of the Sieve river and its merger with the larger Arno river combine to moderate summer heat, creating relatively low mean temperatures and noticeable diurnal temperature differences allied to humidity at both dawn and dusk. This slows ripening (ripening here lags behind Chianti Classico DOCG) and provides well-balanced and ripe grapes. This gives the potential for wines whose poise is due to the combination of natural freshness (notable acidity levels), smoothness (elegant tannins), aroma (from a luminous landscape) and acidity for longevity. Federico Giuntini of Selvapiana told me ‘we are located inland, and experience a more northerly climate [compared to Chianti Classico DOCG] with a very slow ripening season for well-balanced, ripe grapes. We also have very good acidity, good sugar levels [meaning not excessive], and ripe tannins. Compared to the rest of Chianti [see Chianti Putto], these are more a familiar style wine, more elegant, with finesse, and very supple, ripe tannins.’
Geology: Regarding the geological conformation of the soil this is composed of limestone, marl and alberese. The region lies on a Mioeocene pre-Apennine ridge that originates in the north, from the Mugello area and descends to Rufina itself.
Other elements: The sun exposure to the South South-West on soils at an altitude of up to 400 meters above sea level which allows the grapes from the vineyards to reach an optimal but not excessive ripening; the microclimate with high daytime temperatures and cool summer nights, which contributes to maintaining the aromatic notes and developing strong acidity.
Current research: The latest research concerns the acquisition of organoleptic data relating to what if any differences exists between the wines of the left bank of the Sieve and those of the right bank. The Zoning research conducted by Prof. Scienza is also available on the Consortium website.
Terroir: For the sake of completeness, we must also consider the Pomino DOC which instead suffers from the particular character given to viticulture in the mid-19th century by Vittorio degli Albizi, of a noble Florentine family but born in Auxerre and lived for years in France. Albizi believed that the climatic conditions of the Sieve valley were too severe for Sangiovese and Canaiolo. In fact, his contribution consists in the introduction in the area of the French vines Chardonnay, Pinot bianco, Pinot grigio and Cabernet, both Sauvignon and Franc, then Merlot, Malbec, Pinot nero and Syrah. Later this phenomenon remained confined to the Frescobaldi reality, while for the Rufina the traditional methods were resumed.
Reputation: Chianti Rufinà DOCG ranks alongside or even above Chianti Montespertoli DOCG as the most qualitatively renowned of the Chianti DOCG red wines. Rufinà produces some of Italy’s longest-lived Sangiovese-based wines. Despite this Ian d’Agata pointed out to me ‘Chianti Rufinà DOCG remains somewhat under the Tuscan radar because it did not have the benefit of 20-30 noble families making notable wines for 40-odd years. Andrea Zanfei of Fattoria Cerreto Libri is quoted by Louis Dressner as saying ‘because there are so few producers in Rufinà (around 20), DOC regulations are less exposed to the flexibility of Chianti Classico, and the region has remained more rooted in tradition.’ Rufinà is probably the only Chianti DOCG sub-zone (‘sottozona’), except for Chianti Classico DOCG, which deserves its DOCG classification. One reason is it has no denomination of greater prestige within its boundaries, as for example does Chianti Colli Senesi [with Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG], (Nicolas Belfrage MW: 2003, p.96-7).
Rufinà‘s point of difference: Rufinà differs from its fellow Chianti DOCG regions – and from Chianti Classico DOCG – by virtue of being deeper inland and in the foothills of the Apennine mountains that form central Italy’s spine and divide Tuscany from Emilia Romagna, almost up to the Mugello valley. The delimited Rùfina zone runs along the summit of Mount Senario from Dicomano (in the northeast), Londa, Rufinà (between Dicomano and Pontassieve), Pelago (to the south-east) and Pontassieve (in the south-west). These all lie on the hills east of Florence, in three valleys. The first extends along the Sieve river, the second extends along the Pelago Valley, and the third lies west of Pontassieve.
Rufinà‘s six sub-regions: The result is Rufina has six wine sub-regions as defined by Ian d’Agata (2019, p.285-6): the area from Dicomano to Colognole (See Dicomano to Colognole); Londa; the central part of the Sieve Valley–right bank and left bank; the area from Pontassieve to Pelago; and Pian del Molino and Santa Brigida.
Altitude: Ian D’Agata (2019, p.284) points out that although the region describes itself as ‘the highest of all Chiantis’ (‘il più alto fra I Chianti’) average altitudes are roughly 200-500 metres (656-1,640 feet) above sea level, which Ian says is ‘not that high’. However, some Rufinà vineyards are in mountainous environments at up to 700 metres (2,296 feet) above sea level, near Dicomano in northern Rùfina, for example, so the ‘the highest of all Chiantis’ term is not inaccurate. Under this DOCG’s rules 700 metres is the maximum altitude vineyards.
The Pelago area is said to be a notably warm terroir (Selvapiana, Frescobaldi). See also the Pomino DOC, in the hamlet of Pomino, a higher area which Rufinà almost totally surrounds but is considered a separate area altogether (D’Agata: 2019, p.284).
Soils: Ian D’Agata (2019, p.284) cites limestone (eg. in the area extending south to Dicomano), sand, galestro–alberese, marl, marly clays (more typical of the south, water retentive yellow-brown alkaline soils hence vigorous vines), marly silt and chaotic soils (west of Pontassieve and Tigliano, very varied in composition), and differentiated soils (Molino del Piano and Santa Brigida).
Single-site Sangiovese initiative: A project launched in 2020 aimed at identifying each producer’s finest 100% single terroir Sangiovese vineyard, with dedicated single-vineyard labels for the resulting wines. These would serve as ambassadors of the highest expressions of the Rufinà region.
Wine style: ‘Wine lovers should not forget about Chianti Rufinà. For the most part a high-altitude, cool-climate viticultural area, its Chiantis are some of the most perfumed, flinty and refined of all,’ (Ian D’Agata, Vinous, Sept 2014). The region can produce ‘very fine wines blessed by lacy acidity and refined texture that age extremely well’ says Ian D’Agata, Native wine grapes 2014, 434).
Federico Giuntini of Fattoria Selvapiana told me in 2016 that ‘Rufinà as a Chianti zone is known for making very aromatic, elegant wines. This has to do with where we are. We are in a valley and close to the [Apennine] mountains, so we have very dramatic temperatures between night and day, meaning the grapes ripen very slowly. They keep all their freshness, that’s why the wines are so aromatic, floral, with open fruit, ripe fruit, but not too ripe. Always on the fresh side.’ Mauricio Castelli (9th July 2021 at Col di Lamo) told me ‘broadly speaking Chianti Rufinà DOCG is lighter and less structured compared to Chianti Classico DOCG mainly due to its location in a cool lee between the Tuscan Apennines and the Arno river. This makes it subject to cool nights which enhances aromas and inner freshness. It also means the wines are never monolithic. It is a versatile wine in the sense that it can be ready to drink a year or so after the harvest but develops well in bottle.’
Vintages: 1985. | 1997. | 1998. | 1999. | 2000. | 2001. | 2002. | 2003. | 2004. | 2005. | 2006. | 2007. | 2008. | 2009. | 2010. | 2011. | 2012. | 2013. | 2014. | 2015. | 2016. | 2017. | 2018. | 2019. | 2020. | 2021.
Markets: Traditionally the Rufinà wines were sold to the ‘mescite‘ (bars serving wine) and ‘trattorie‘ of Florence.
Certified organic, Biodynamic practices: Voltumna.
Certified organic: Borgo Macereto (Dicomano). | Fattoria I Veroni (Pontassieve). | Fattoria Lavacchio (Pontassieve). | Fattoria Selvapiana (Pontassieve). | Frascole (Dicomano). | Villa di Vetrice (Pontassieve).
No certification: Cantine Fratelli Bellini (Pontassieve). | Castello del Trebbio (Pontassieve). | Castello di Nipozzano (Pelago). | Colognole (Rùfina). | Dreolino (Rùfina). Fattoria di Basciano (Rufinà). | Fattoria di Grignano (Pontassieve). | Fattoria Il lago (Dicomano). | Grati (). | Le Coste di Giuliano Grati (Rufinà). | Marchesi Frescobaldi (Florence). | Marchesi Gondi (Pontassieve). | Podere Il Pozzo (Pontassieve). | Poggio Gualtieri – see Fattoria di Grignano. | Scopetani. | Tenuta Bossi – Marchesi Gondi. | Travignoli (Pelago).
Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).
Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy (Mitchell Beazley, London, 1990).
David Gleave, The Wines of Italy (Salamander Books, London, 1989).
Daniel Thomases and David Gleave MW, Oxford Companion to Wine 3rd edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2006).
Dr Ian d’Agata, Italy’s Native Wine Grapes (University of California Press, 2014).
Dr Ian d’Agata, Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019), p.284-286.
Dr Ian D’Agata, Tuscany Part 1: Chianti, Vino Nobile and Supertuscans (Vinous, Sep 2014).
Louis Dressner, ‘Chianti Rufinà from Cerreto Libri‘.
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo–The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003).
Oz Clarke 2015, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p.85.
Stephen Brook, Decanter.com, 7th July